Oil Finds a Range

One critical issue is absent in this election year. Well, actually all critical issues are absent, but that’s another point. This time around absolutely no one is talking about one thing that has dominated US politics since the early 1970s – the price of oil. Gasoline is cheap and everyone is happy.

Everyone, that is, except the oil and gas industry. The crash in oil prices in 2014 has confounded the business of drilling, baby, drilling and left oil prices if anything too low – a concern if your job is to make the bubblin’ crude come out of the ground.

It’s been a mystery since the crash just where oil prices will finally land. Today, however, most experts finally agree – we are probably right now in the range that oil will stay at for at least the next year, if not beyond. That’s great for the US, but terrible for other oil producing nations.

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Twitter Must Die! (and it will)

Twitter is dying. Or perhaps it is already dead, it’s hard to say. The stock has rallied lately, anticipating a buyout by …. someone. Google just said they aren’t interested, and who can blame them? The company has never been profitable and has never found its niche.

It is still handy if you want to know what Trump is thinking around 3AM, if you are into that kind of thing. CNN still relies on twitter for feeds from ordinary people for some reason. But for all of this, there was never anything resembling an actual revenue model and never any attempt to find a way to organize the firehose of information that blasts at you once you reach a certain number of users.

I have no use for it, and I don’t know anyone who does. Will it go away?

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The Final Countdown

This is a critical week in the Presidential election. No, that’s not because of the Vice Presidential debate, which will start right after this is posted. You can decide for your self just how important it is and then revise your estimate downward a week later. Don’t worry, we live in a time of negative interest rates so there is indeed a lower standard of importance than whatever you are thinking.

No, this is the week for the final jobs report. Not the last one before the election – that comes out the Friday before. That will be too close to the election to really sink in, so this is the last one that we can be sure will count. Will it be good and favor Obama III: The coming of Hillary? Or will it be a disaster and herald the arrival of, well, a much worse disaster named Trump?

Bet on a solid 180k gain that will seem decent enough to be called a win. But you never know with these reports. Here’s why.

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Confidence is Back!

Barataria has asked the question several times before – given that things are a lot better than they have been in a long time, why are people so down on the economy?

After posing a few potential reasons, we may have the answer – it was largely an artifact of the presidential campaign. That would make the most sense given that the Conference Board index of Consumer Confidence has hit 104.1, the highest it has been since 2007. Combining that with a strong net approval rating for President Obama, which has been tracking around +8 (52 approve, 44 disapprove) and we have the net positive we should expect.

Will this transfer over to Sec. Clinton in time for the election? Given her performance at the first debate, the answer is that it should.  It’s all coming just in time.

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Simply Too Big

Perhaps you believe, as many people do, that the largest banks in the nation such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs should be broken up. They are simply “Too big to fail” and the cost of a bailout by taxpayers to avoid a systemic failure is too great. Who should break them up? The federal government, by legislation? The Federal Reserve, by regulation?

How about the free market – because they are not as profitable?

For all the shouting and consternation about big banks, one simple fact has gone overlooked. With their tremendous size and ability to “make the market”, as shown by the “London Whale” incident, they do not actually rule the world. They are about as profitable, and usually less so, than smaller banks. The reasons are not obvious but they are demonstrated. And those who should be doing the shouting are not the “99%” but the shareholders.

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Shipping Meltdown! (or not?)

Santa Claus isn’t coming this year! Global shipping has collapsed! Big ships are stranded as the companies can’t even pay the docking fees!

Clearly, it’s time to panic. The bankruptcy of Hanjin shipping has created a wave of horrifically bad stories predicting the end of international trade as we know it. Recession must be just around the corner as the global system collapses, right?

Um, no. Not even close. The story we have been told is a good example of two key features of financial reporting today. The first is that no one has the slightest idea what they are talking about and the story is completely free of the context anyone might need to understand it. The second is that the only big news is bad news – probably in part due to the first problem.

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Labor Unions are Inevitable

Labor Day is brought to you by those who brought you the weekend – Organized Labor.

When I worked in Germany for a short time in the 1990s, labor relations often came up. Some of my colleagues were envious of the US system while most hated it. All of them, however, had a term for what they understood our core principle to be – “Hire and Fire”. The idea of an “at will” employee with no job security in law and no loyalty by tradition was alien to Germans.

Compared to the nations in the developed world which we compete with, our position is unusual. It’s a bias at the foundation of our system – a natural outcome of the demand for a flexible workforce. This is also likely to change as more and more skill is needed to do the jobs of tomorrow.

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